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Friends in high places
For Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, working together on their upcoming movie A Star Is Born (opening May 18) represents a major shift in their respective careers, and their performative talents — Gaga a pop icon, Cooper an Oscar-nominated actor — might have rubbed off on each other in the process. Gaga (credited as Stefani Germanotta) makes her debut as a lead actress, while Cooper has honed his songwriting skills alongside some of the top musicians in the industry, many of whom have previously worked with his costar. Get to know the team behind the upcoming romance's original soundtrack ahead.
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An oft-told tale of Hollywood excess and romance, A Star Is Born follows a fading crooner, Jackson Maine (Cooper), who takes a budding talent, Ally (Germanotta) under his wing, and its director knew their journey needed something special to set it apart from three previous iterations: great original music. So, in addition to directing his first movie, Cooper helped craft the songs with his leading lady. "Ally's rise has a musical arc to it," he tells EW. "For Jackson's music, [Germanotta] gave me the inspiration, she just said, 'Work, and then you'll figure out what kind of musician he is,' and that's really what happened. I had the luxury of time. I spent two-and-a-half years prepping for this movie, and got to go see and work with so many people and had an incredible vocal coach, Roger Love, and great musicians to help me, and by the end he just kind of started developing into his own sort of creation. If I had another year of prep, it would have been complete rock, but now it's some sort of hybrid."
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Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta)
Germanotta is pulling double duty for A Star Is Born too, rounding up a few of her former collaborators (Mark Ronson, Lukas Nelson) to pen songs for the film. At her insistence, the songs were all recorded live on set — an Oscar-verified technique that has worked for movies like Les Miserables and La La Land in the past. "There’s no singing in playback, which was terrifying, but it’s key to the movie!" Cooper explains. "It makes all the difference. Stefani was adamant about that: She said, ‘We have to record everything live,’ and I’m so glad she did. It’s night and day." Germanotta's lyrical prowess has been recognized by the academy before, as she and Diane Warren were nominated in 2016 for writing the signature song "Til It Happens To You," from the campus sexual assault documentary The Hunting Ground.
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After Mark Ronson helped Gaga reroute her career as the executive producer of her Americana-influenced album Joanne, Cooper enlisted the British hitmaker's songwriting skills — which shot songs like Bruno Mars' "Uptown Funk" and Amy Winehouse's "Valerie" to the top of the charts — for the Star Is Born original soundtrack. So expect some of the film's compositions to echo the organic instrumentation and soulful touches found on Mother Monster's fifth LP. Cooper says one such tune, a ballad titled "The Shallow," stands out as a personal favorite.
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Hailing from Savannah, Georgia, Dave Cobb has worked most of his career coming into his own as an honorary Nashvillian, earning himself two Grammys and a long list of high-profile collaborations with the likes of Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Nico Vega, Chris Cornell, and Shooter Jennings.
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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
The Los Angeles-based rock group appears in A Star Is Born as Jackson Maine's backing band, though they also put in time working on fresh music for some of the film's key sequences. Fronted by Lukas Nelson (son of Willie), the band most notably supported Neil Young on his 2015 album The Monsanto Years, though they've since released a handful of standalone albums — the most recent of which features Gaga on two smoldering tracks: "Find Yourself" and "Carolina."
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Rounding out the prestigious group of Grammy winners working on A Star Is Born is former Drive-by Truckers member Jason Isbell, who, after contributing songs to their Dirty South and A Blessing and a Curse LPs, embarked on a successful solo career in 2007. He's thus far produced six albums on his own, nabbing two trophies from the Recording Academy in the process.